Tuesday Morning Open Thread

What’s up?

I am sorry to start on such a sad note, but here is a letter that recently appeared in Michelle Singletary’s column, “The Color of Money”:

My husband and I both lost our jobs, have run through our savings and now face losing our home. I’m worried about celebrating Christmas on a zero budget with young children who do not understand why they will not be getting presents, and not feeling bitter because we both did everything right (our spending and saving habits would have made you proud) and now we have lost everything. It’s hard to start over at 41 and 43, and it may not even be possible.

I’m so sorry about your situation. And it would be easy for me to say suck it up and explain the kids how tough times are. I hope you have reached out to family, friends or any church, religious or community groups you belong to.

Now it not the time to be too prideful to ask for help in at least getting some gifts for the kids.

And as for yourself and your spouse, try to remember that even if you lose the house you still have your family.

Good food for thought. Thank you, Michelle Singletary.

In related news, MSN had an article on how more and more people are walking away from their mortgages. Their homes are underwater, and it doesn’t make sense for them to empty their savings accounts to only face foreclosure later on.  

MSN recently doled out 15 tips or “fun and inexpensive ways” for fathers to bond with their children. But I didn’t see why moms couldn’t do these activities, too.

The California chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW) is suing Hooters for catering to children, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

What else is in the news? What’s up with you?


Friday Open Thread: Bonding Edition

Happy Friday everyone!

Whew… what a week! Between being back at work and traipsing through Southern California with my visiting niece and nephew, I am feeling like I have spent very little time with Alex. I’m so glad to be working a few hours from home today, and spending some quality snuggly time with my sweet baby boy.

And then, there’s my daughter! During my 5.5 months of maternity leave I felt like I had the baby attached to me during just about every waking moment; Maya was busy with school or dance lessons or soccer practice, and DH took most of the chauffeur duties on while I stayed home with the baby.

Which, naturally, made me feel guilty. My daughter was the center of our universe for 5 years before her baby brother came along, and while she has handled his arrival with so much love and grace that it melts my heart, I kind of miss spending one-on-one time with her. Just us girls.

I have vowed to make more of an effort to do so, whenever possible. I have taken Maya with me while I get pedicures at the local nail salon; she sits in the chair next to me and gets her toenails polished while I get my hoofs sanded down, and we giggle and chat and pick out each other’s colors.

I’m trying to make more of an effort to switch bedtime duties with DH; he can give Alex a bottle while I read Maya her favorite book. Then we cuddle in her bed for a few minutes before I give her a kiss goodnight.

This week I rushed home from work to grab Maya and meet up with a friend and her son for a trip to the circus. I was breathless and exhausted by the time we took our seats, but it was nice to sit in the dark and watch the awe on her face while the clowns romped and the acrobats flipped. It was heaven not to be interrupted by a fussing baby and even better not to have to lift my shirt up once to offer my baby a meal! Maya crawled into my lap for much of the show and we shared popcorn and cotton candy. It was also nice to catch up with my girlfriend and commiserate with a fellow working mama about the crazy push-and-pull that some days can bring.

We came home with lots of stories to tell Papi and a shared experience to remember. Maya will be entering kindergarten next month, so I feel like I have to cherish each moment while she still thinks I’m the coolest person ever, and while she still finds events like the circus magical :-)

How do you ladies with more than one child ensure that you spend individual quality time with each kid? Any tips, advice, stories to share?

This is an open thread so chat away!


Adoption is Forever?! The Russian Adoptee Sent Back

Last week, the unthinkable happened to a child. You may have heard about the 7 year old boy (Artyem Saviliev) whose adoptive family “sent him back” to Russia, the country of his birth, 6 months after he was brought home by his “forever family.” Alone. From Tennessee to Russia by himself. The boy is now under the protection of the Russian government.

To level set, once an adoption, any adoption in the US, is finalized the adoptive parents are the legal parents. That is, if it’s illegal to abandon or abuse your biological child, it’s illegal to do so to your adoptive child. Parents, all of ’em, are responsible for their children (regardless of how difficult)

Naturally, the Russian government is also outraged and it is very likely that adoptions from Russia will slow or halt — temporarily or permanently. According to Lisa Belkin’s Motherlode column

Russian Foreign Minister Sergev Lavrov responded this morning by demanding that all Russia-to-United States adoptions be frozen. That chill will likely affect hundreds of American families; there were 1,600 Russian children adopted in the U.S. last year.

NowDepartment of State officials are off to Russia to convince the Russians not to stop international adoptions. Thousands of adoptions from the US alone are likely in progress. (This is a personal irony for me because the same US Department of State was silent when the Guatemalan government closed adoptions while a thousand adoptions were still in progress back in 2007.)

The adoption, especially the international adoption, community is in an uproar about this news. The Joint Council on International Children’s Services (JCIC) released a statement:

It should be recognized that this tragedy is an isolated incident of abuse and not representative of the more than 100,000 adoptions completed each year by American citizens. Further, we must also note that all children residing in the United States, regardless of their country of birth or adopted status are provided with the same protections and rights.

It is our understanding that these right and protections are being enforced by the appropriate elements of the United States and Russian governments, including the U.S. Dept of State, Tennessee Child Protection, and Law Enforcement. Joint Council fully supports the actions of the Russian and United States governments to ensure the safety of the child and that aggressive action against the individuals involved is taken.

So what are the concerns? Well, as many of you know, adoption is always is a process of adjustment – one of loss and joy – for the child (the family too, but the child is the focus here).  Adopting a child older than 1 year is very different from adopting an infant or an older baby. Adopting a child who has language and perhaps years of memories (of family life, trauma, etc), reads, and writes is very different from adopting a toddler. And, a child who has spent time in an orphanage has different challenges than a child who has not spent time in an institution.  All of these things were true in the case of this 7 year old Russian boy who was adopted 6 months ago.

One of the key challenges is the disruption (maybe multiple disruptions) to the attachment cycle — the way by which we learn to bond and trust our caretakers.  Though kids are resilient, the disruption of this cycle, in their birth family, in relatives homes and foster care and then in state care/orphanages can take its toll.

During the process of adopting my kids, I learned that the age that a child comes home to you is the length of time that it will take that child to adjust to living with you. Not to catch up developmentally or emotionally. Just to get used to living in his new adoptive family. I saw this happen in my own family. For baby R, who was 13 months old, it took about 1 year for her to adjust to us. After 2 years, she is now really comfortable and attached to everyone. My son on the other hand, came to us when he was 7 months old. His adjustment time was less than a year. I think the age of their adoption affects how each of them experiences change. My son is very easy going; baby R, not so much.

So, six months in and the family was ready to give up?  Why did they not expect the process of bonding with this child and him to them to take longer, much longer? Why didn’t they have support to help them in this challenging process. These questions are typically addressed by the adoptive family’s adoption agency and social worker (the person who performs the home study). This isn’t easy stuff and one has to learn how to parent a child who has experienced attachment issues, to teach them how to trust, to attach. I recently read Parenting the Hurt Child by an expert in the field of adoption and attachment, Gregory Keck, that explains, in great detail, about how parents can implement parenting methods to address a child’s attachment issues.

Etta Lappen Davis, another child welfare professional, expressed her concerns about the family’s adoption process which summarizes the questions that the Henson case raises:

Here are some questions whose answers would help to identify how this tragic outcome might have been averted:

·  What was Ms. Hansen’s motivation to adopt?

·  What education and training did she receive?

·  What were the qualifications of the home study worker?  How many home study visits and meetings occurred?  What questions were asked and issues explored?  Were any difficulties identified?

·  What did Ms. Hansen understand about the inherent risks of adopting an older child? Did she understand the challenges of being a single adoptive mother?

·  What was her understanding of the losses that a child of Artyom’s age experiences when leaving his country of birth and everything familiar to him? What did her placement agency and home study provider teach her about the expected adjustment difficulties a child would experience and what she could do to mitigate them?

·  What information did Ms. Hansen receive about Artyom?  Was the information honest and complete?  Was there a history of abuse?  Did she have ample time to consider the referral?  Did she have the opportunity to seek consultation with medical and mental health professionals about the referral?

·  Did Ms. Hansen have plans for support and for seeking assistance, if needed,  after placement?

·  Did she understand cultural identity?  Did she understand the ramifications of changing Artyom’s name?  Were translators available during Artyom’s first months in the US?  What opportunities did he have to be with Russian speakers and role models?

·  What was the nature of the post-adoption visit in January?  What questions were asked?  What supports were offered?  Did Ms. Hansen have an opportunity to discuss concerns and ask questions?  Did the worker meet with Artyom alone? Was there any indication during that visit that things were not going well?

·  What were the first signs of difficulties?  When did they occur?  To whom, if anyone, did Ms. Hansen reach out for assistance?  What did she do to try to avoid dissolution of the adoption?

These are just a few of the questions that must be answered.

The conflict for many people in the adoption world is that this is one incident. Horrific, yes, but indicative of all adoptions? Probably not. Does it mean adoption agencies need to do a better job of evaluating and educating prospective parents? Yes. Does it mean the thousands of children who waiting for their adoptions to complete be left in orphanages — anywhere?  I hope not.


Weekly Parenting News Roundup

Cross-posted at Daily Kos. Don’t forget to recommend us! :)

Good morning fellow moms, dads and caregivers!

I am back with your weekly parenting news update. Here are some topics we recently discussed here at MotherTalkers:

An expectant mom at the Mamasource newsletter in Berkeley recently complained that her husband does not read any parenting books and is being insensitive to what she is experiencing during pregnancy. While I could sympathize with her plight, I agreed with posters who said she will have no control over how her husband bonds with the baby. Their relationship will be unique, apart from hers. That said, what are your favorite parenting books for dads? What other tips would you offer dads-to-be?

We also discussed class reunions. Would you or have you gone to your 20th high school class reunion? Stefania over at the 40 Whatever blog gave a host of reasons why she didn’t go. Facebook, anyone?

This is a depressing story. We discussed the difficulty for college graduates today to find work. Even worse, they are swimming in credit card debt and student loans, according to an article in MSNBC.com. Do you have children graduating from college this year? What do they plan to do?

Straight from the bizarre story file: A 50-year-old mother in England doled out $15,000 for plastic surgery to look like her 29-year-old daughter, according to ABC News. The story, by the way, includes before and after shots of the pair. If I were the daughter, I would die.

We re-visited a regular theme at MotherTalkers: What is sleep and how can we get more of it? After years of waking through the night, I found it difficult to sleep through the night even after my kids did. I tried a lot of things like melatonin and taking a warm bath before bedtime. This is what has worked for me: Exercising every morning and establishing a regular bedtime, cutting out caffeine and alcohol except for special occasions and avoiding the computer and TV right before bedtime. Otherwise, I find myself tossing and turning throughout the night or wide-awake at 3 a.m. and waking up in a vile mood. What other sleep tips do you have?

And in case you haven’t noticed, MotherTalkers has undergone a facelift. Please do continue to tell us what you think.

What’s up with you?


How I Bond With My Teenage Daughter

My daughter Karina is 14-years-old, and a freshman in high school. She participates in cross-country and track and field, she is respectful, smart, funny, and fiercely loyal. Not only do I love her to bits, but I really like her.

I use whatever method is at my disposal to bond with her. We have mother/daughter time, where we go out to breakfast and talk. She tells me about things that are troubling her, and I listen, then try – to the best of my ability – to offer any bit of wisdom.

We sit together and watch television shows, like The Secret Life of an American Teenager, and discuss our thoughts at the end of the show. She shares her point-of-view, and I share mine. I also offer a bit of the “been there, done that” perspective. Our conversations have been VERY constructive.

We have also watched Intervention, which offers a glimpse into the not too glamorous world of drug addiction. What I really like about this program is the reality of it all. They show the addict hitting rock bottom. They show the enabling. They show the actual drug use, whether it be shooting up, snorting or drinking. They show the crash and they show what has been lost as a result. After the television program, we discuss what we’ve seen.

So far (knock on wood), Karina seems to have a good head on her shoulders, and when she’s confused and doesn’t know what to do, she knows that she can always come to me. No judgement.

What methods of bonding with your children have worked for you?


Love is the Answer

(blogged by HHI Public Information Officer Liz Kimmerly)

I recently stumbled upon an episode from This American Life called “Unconditional Love”. I found it to be so interesting and it really helped to open my mind to the broader history of childhood bonding and its significance in the history America’s child development and Hands to Hearts International’s work.
The episode’s intro discussed the research of Harry Harlow. Between 1963 and 1968 he ran a series of tests that took baby rhesus monkeys away from their mothers and put them in a cages, each equipped with one mother made of terry cloth and one made of wire which provided food. Please watch the experiment in the video below:</object&gt

As you can see from this video, even baby monkeys need to be nurtured. I was especially intrigued when Harlow said that the baby monkey would spend 17-18 hours with the cloth mother as opposed to the wire mother.

This might not seem surprising, but as Ira Glass said, before the 1950’s, American doctor’s, psychologists, and the government believed that too much childhood bonding was a bad thing. Public messaging would discourage mothers from kissing and holding their babies too much. Influential Psychologist of the time John Watson even said that “Mother Love is a dangerous instrument”.

Ira’s monologue was shocking to me and made me think on a grand scale. One thing was obvious; I knew that not all mothers listened to this messaging, but I shivered when I realized how many mothers did listen to the society’s ignorant warnings about bonding. Who out of my 20 something generation would think that the American society was against mother and child bonding until the 1950s.

This made me wonder how this affected the childhood of my grandparents and their generation. I found myself thinking if I could connect this story to some of the more dysfunctional traits of my family.

It also reminded me of my travels in Asia when I felt my own frustration for a lack of bonding. I remember when I lived in Nepal and I had several children who I spent time with. I used to bring them crayons and teach them games like leap frog and how to build a kite. We had fun and it was a precious time. Then, when I had to leave for America, I wanted to hug them goodbye but it wasn’t acceptable by the Nepali cultural standards. It made me a little sad to leave without a proper hug, but there wasn’t much I could do.

The radio program went on to discuss an example of attachment disorder. Heidi and Rick adopted a child from a Romanian orphanage named Daniel. Daniel lived there for 7.5 years and didn’t remember much from the experience. He didn’t go to school and just stayed in his crib during most of his days. Daniel did remember never having a desire for family.

Heidi and Rick recalled how they enjoyed the first 6 months with Daniel but that period unexpectedly came to a screeching halt. Out of thin air, Daniel became a violent child. He would throw things in the house and intentionally aimed physical attacks at his mother. The attacks brought police to the house twice a month on average. One day it got so bad that he held a knife to her throat.

Heidi had tried so many therapies with Daniel along the way, but this tragic and frightening incident pushed her to search harder. Thankfully, she found what she was looking for, and for the first time, Daniel was officially diagnosed. He had attachment disorder and the remedy for this was for him was to be treated with love and nurturing as if he had gone back to being a one year old again.

That’s right. The attachment therapist prescribed that Heidi and Daniel would have to spend 3 months together, side bye side, with no more than the distance of three feet apart. Also, even though Daniel was 10, both of the parents were ordered to cradle him like a baby every night for 20 minutes, while looking deep into his eyes and holding him tight.

This sounds crazy to most, but it changed Daniel dramatically and his violence toward Heidi ceased to exist. At the time of this interview, Daniel was a teenager and he had just been awarded as a model citizen in his local synagogue. Quite a change from the day when he held a knife to his mother’s throat. The love and physical bonding cured him.

So, I’ll bring it back to my work and my own environment. I now work with Hands to Hearts International. Laura Peterson is its executive Director, founder, creator etc. and she has just reached over 10,200 children with her message of the importance of childhood bonding. From what I have seen of her work, of the video footage, the photos, the stories, and people such as parents who adopted a child from an orphanage where HHI’s program is strong, I am convinced that HHI is the answer to all of the problems that I have just mentioned. I have seen a lot of disasters in this world. I have worked as a humanitarian aid worker in war-torn countries. I have worked in non-profits big and small, and I have to say that HHI is the most effective thing I’ve seen. Why? Because it starts at the core of children’s lives, with love. It’s so simple that I’m afraid that not everyone can grasp it. It’s true though. Just imagine how things would have been different for Daniel if he had HHI trained caregivers at his orphanage in Romania, singing him songs and cradling him to sleep as a baby. Is it resonating yet?

I don’t think healing people, a country or the world is about a new democracy, newly elected presidents, the greatest new technology, or fancy billion dollar aid packages. It’s just about love and I’m waiting for the day when more people understand this. HHI gets this and it gives me hope.


Sex and the City, The Movie

It has been four years since the HBO series Sex and the City has been off the air. This Friday is the premier of the Sex and the City movie, and I’m VERY excited.

“We can’t remember the last time a movie has created so much anticipation among female moviegoers from their 20s through their 40s,” said Harry Medved, a spokesman for Fandango, the online movie ticket site.

Medved said many women seem to be planning to go in groups. “We are getting a surprising number of requests for group ticket sales from women planning ‘Sex and the City’ get-togethers,” he said.

The Arclight Cinema in Hollywood, a movie theater I frequent is promoting a 21+ screening of the movie, offering the following:

Party Package Includes: One regular admission 21+ ticket, a reservation in the ArcLight café/bar, two cocktails (featuring SKYY cosmopolitans & martinis), savory & sweet heavy appetizers*, a “Sex and the City” fedora and logo martini glass, all taxes and gratuity included.

Party tickets are available for the all inclusive price of $60 and may be purchased online by clicking here and selecting one of the 21+ Party Show dates and times listed above. Admission restricted to those age 21 and over; valid ID required.

*The menu will include mini NY style pizzas and hot dogs, Chinese noodles in mini-takeout boxes with chopsticks, grilled summer vegetables, babaganoush and hummus with pita chips, pastry bites and Susina cupcakes.


I underestimated the calling of the show and found that opening weekend was SOLD OUT. I’m still going to see it…but without all the bells and whistles featured at the Arclight.

According to this article, 94 percent of ticket buyers for the movie were women.

“This movie really will be a paternity test for R-rated female-driven romantic comedies,” said analyst Jeff Bock of box office tracker Reel Source. “There haven’t been a lot of movies like this.” Bock predicts the movie will have a strong opening weekend, then a big drop-off. “There’s no getting around that this is a film oriented to women and gay men,” he said. “It will be very hard to get past that, especially with a lot of testosterone-driven films out there this summer.

Yes, there are many “testosterone-driven” films, such as Iron Man and Indiana Jones, so Sex and the City would be considered the ultimate “chick flick” movie.

“Sex and the City” could be “a different kind of date movie” — a date among girlfriends: “This should be a major bonding ritual.”

I plan to bond with my girlfriends (Erika!), while watching this movie! What about you? Is there any interest in watching the movie? Do you care where Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte and Samantha are in their lives? And what about Mr. Big?


Bonding With Your Children

We all have our own ways to bond with our children.

I remember my mother, for instance, would take my brother and I individually on “Fun Days,” which were more or less glorified day trips. She took me on train rides. We visited the town I was born in. We went to the coast together, just she and I. I’ll always remember my mother for the fact that she took time to spend with me one-on-one on those “Fun Days” we had together.

I’ve recently been working for a nonprofit, Hands to Hearts International, that is putting out a video for moms on baby massage, yet another way to bond with your babies. (You can find out more about HHI and see shots from the video here or find out about the video on HHI’s Web site.)

Working on this video got me thinking. What ways do you bond with your own children? Do you take them on trips as my mother did? Talk to them every day after school?

Would love to hear what you do.



Bonding and Birth Methods

I’m not a mother…yet. This is the first month that we’ve been ready and able to really get down. So, of course, more and more questions spring to mind.

I am very curious to hear your opinions about the possible impact that the method of birth has on mother/infant bonding.

A few days ago, I watched The Business of Being Born which is a documentary on midwifery. Don’t worry; I saw that it was the topic of a thread here in May of last year. It is not my intention to rehash the safety and feminist issues previously raised but to focus on the issue of bonding with regard to different birth methods.

The film is advocating home births and in my opinion, the most compelling reason presented for choosing this route is the premise that a more organic and solid bond between mother and infant tends to occur after home births. Apparently, the stronger bonding is due to the mother’s full participation as well as the low-key home environment as opposed to the imposing and sterile hospital environment.

Of course, it is important to acknowledge that not everyone has the option of delivering at home and also that millions of mothers who give birth in hospitals, even with maximum interference, go on to form powerful and lasting bonds with their babies.

I realize that his is a touchy subject and a personal choice. I never bonded with my mother. I honestly doubt that this has a whole lot to do with the fact that I was born in the hospital; there have been many other factors. However, in the interest of doing everything in my power to ensure a bond with my own child, I am interested to hear your views on this issue.